Salem Baptist rising senior is turning heads

Daniel Leal is a rising senior at Salem Baptist and one of the best basketball players in the county.

Salem Baptist rising senior is turning heads
July 04
01:00 2018

Basketball is a sport predominately dominated by African-Americans from the high school to the professional level.  However, Daniel Leal is of Mexican descent and is quite possibly the best unknown player in Forsyth County. 

Leal, a rising senior at Salem Baptist Christian School, is a silky smooth point guard who has faced off against some of the best point guards in the city and has held his own or outright got the better of them.

“It’s a good feeling to play against some of the big named players in the city because I am just a kid that nobody really knows,” he says.  “I just like that I can hold my own against them and then you get respect and attention from them, too.”

Basketball was not the first love for Leal as he was growing up as a youth.  As a young kid, soccer and boxing were the two sports close to his heart.  Leal stated he did not have the skill to play soccer nor the passion to stick with boxing so decided to pick up basketball.

“When I was 8, I used to go to the park every day with my dad and train because he said if I wanted to play basketball, I had to be good at it,” he said.  “We would practice from 5 in the afternoon until 10 at night.”

Leal says he wasn’t that good when he first picked up a basketball, either.  He says other kids would make fun of him not only because he was not that good but also because he was “Hispanic or Mexican,” he says.

“People would say that I couldn’t play because I was Mexican but that pushed me to keep playing so I could prove them wrong,” he continued.  “I loved playing even more when I started to get respect because I began to improve over the years and people starting noticing.

“I am not just playing for myself.  I am playing for my parents, my family and the people who look up to me.  Hopefully I can make it somewhere to inspire another kid like me to do the same thing,” Leal said.

Once he hit the eighth grade, Leal says, he knew that basketball was the sport for him.  He had made such strides in those few short years that he knew he could play with anyone.  He says he gets an extra sense of satisfaction when he does well against players who underestimate him because he is Hispanic.

Leal began his high school career with Parkland High School.  He says he had a productive freshman year.  His sophomore year at Parkland started with a bang as he scored 20 points against Glenn in his first junior varsity game.  He says halfway through the year his playing time began to be trimmed tremendously for unknown reasons.

“I am not sure why the coaches did not let me play more in the second half of the year,” he says.  “I don’t want to speculate.”

Following his sophomore year at Parkland, Leal and his parents decided to transfer him over to Salem Baptist.  His family also decided to reclassify him as a sophomore so that Daniel could focus in more on his academics in hopes of raising his grades for college.

His first year at Salem Baptist was derailed due to a lingering back injury he suffered during the season.  He also suffered a broken rib along with a groin injury that held him back.  Going into his junior year he had high expectations for himself.

“My junior year is when I actually like started to push myself and my coach really gave me a chance to play,” he went on to say.  “I carried my team most of the time and I averaged 25 points this year.”

“I was also named MVP of the team and that felt good because I like making my family proud of me.  I just want other Hispanic kids to know they can make it somewhere.”

Leal is a jack of all trades on the floor due to his ability to shoot from behind the arc as well as getting to the basketball at will with his superior ball handling skills.  He says he patterns his game after Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr.

Heading into next season Leal says he just wants to help his team win more games, hopefully attracting some college scouts along the way as well.  He says he would love to attend Wake Forest University so he can stay close to home.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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